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A Margin For Life

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By Author: Molly Gordon
Total Articles: 4
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On a printed page, margins are the white space without which the text is too garbled to register. Margins give emphasis to what matters; without them everything seems equally urgent, similarly important. Margins also accommodate delight: they make it possible for the contents of a page or of a life to be arranged in a pleasing way. They allow for artful choice. Because they are empty, it is tempting to fill the margins when the pressure is on. We steal time from the margins to make another meeting, start another project, make another call. This can work for a day or two, but over time any concerted effort will fail if it steals from the margins. In fact, when there is more to be done than there is time to do it in, the answer is to slow down, not to speed up. When a problem is too big or complex to be solved in the time available, we have to go to another level to solve it. Pushing harder and moving faster won't get the job done. If, in spite of this, we insist on shrinking the margins, we feel harried and confused. Depending on our individual styles, we may get irritable, weepy, bossy, or simply forgetful. (Notice, ...
... none of those results save time, make money, or engender effective collaboration.) We may start saying "No" to things we'd like to say "Yes" to and vice versa. Play starts to feel like work, and work loses its charm. However, if we expand or maintain our margins in times of great challenge, we will notice new possibilities. A phone call that felt like an intrusion when we were exhausted turns out to be the help we need when we have ears to hear it. A suggestion that felt like one more demand on depleted resources becomes the bridge to a solution. Similarly, it is easier to resist distractions and to see through distortions when we are not overstressed. I've noticed in recent weeks that I need more space and time than usual to do my work. I imagine that this is true for many of us as we adjust to the feelings and the changes in our world since September 11th. Because some of these feelings are uncomfortable and because the changes are worrisome, we may try to do more and do it faster than ever. Instead, I suspect that taking extra time now will save us time (and yes, money) in the long run. Notice where you may be pushing into your margins this week, and see where you can reclaim the space. Revise commitments and declare a moratorium on new promises for a few days. If you are a manager, let your people know that margins are more important than ever. Make more room in the margins and the shape of what is truly important will appear again, more clearly than ever. Then you can move forward with confidence.

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